Need new knives. Leaning Japanese

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by jameelmoses, Apr 13, 2014.

  1. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    Background: I've worked in the industry most of my life and did everything from Dishwasher to server to GM. I'm out now, but I still love to cook at home. My wife is an aspiring home cook. We plan on taking lessons together soon as a bonding experience and to teach her some knife skills.

    After lurking around here for a few days scouring the forums, I decided to register and pose the already asked question. Especially after seeing BDL's awesome, detailed responses.

    I went to BB&B today and handled every chef knife they had and am set on Japanese. I've always used Western in the past, but I was intrigued and loved it. My wife and I both have small hands and wrists and the Japanese immediately felt like an extension of the arm.

    I will say, although I'm aware the steel quality isn't the greatest, that the Calphalon Katana felt the best in my hand as far as handles go. The tapered bolster felt very natural in my hand.

    The issue I have is that I'm left handed and my wife is right handed. Am I out of luck in the a Japanese market?

    Budget isn't a concern, although I'm not gong to be buying a $500 chef. Focus is on the chef knife, but will be purchasing a petty (maybe a paring), utility (leaning towards serrated although I'd like opinions here) and steel. Will likely utilize a sharpening service until I practice enough on some cheap knives.
     
  2. mike9

    mike9

    Messages:
    2,404
    Likes Received:
    338
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    If you are used to Western Randy from HHH is selling some of the last production 240 gyutos at a very nice price of $210 + shipping ($10 conus).  These are excellent knives and one of my "go to" blades - very nimble for their size and the grind and heat treat is excellent.  The handle is almost a hybrid wa/yo so you get that "extension of the arm" feeling.

      http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/s...ast-of-the-240-s-SALE!!!!?p=294917#post294917

     
  3. chrismit

    chrismit

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Couple things, as far as the lefty righty thing goes I'm not sure if you are referring to the blade or the handle. Don't worry about the blade unless you are looking at single bevel knives (which I will srongly recommend against as this is your first j knife). If there is asymmetry in the way it's sharpened you can either sharpen it out or use it as is and likely not notice any difference. There are some double bevel knives that have a fairly asymmetric grind that you may want to stay away from but that bridge can be crossed if the time comes. As for handle, pretty much don't get a d shaped handle if you are concerned. Some people find the opposite d handle doesn't bother them some do, another option is to sand it down. If you purchase western handle shouldn't make a difference.
    The calphalon katana is not a bad knife, my daughter has a short santoku. I don't mind the handle, it gets reasonably sharp (kind of a pain to deburr). If you decide to go this route you should really search because a retail prices they are definitely overpriced. We picked hers up at an outlet for a stupid low price. There are going to be many knives for the money that will be better value but its all in what you like.
    If you and you wife are going to be cooking together I might suggest 2 chef/prep knives. When you go to your classes you will want your own knives and if you are both prepping likely will want the same. Before making any recommendations it would be helpful to have a max budget. I know you said money is not a concern but you also indicated you would not be purchasing a 500 chef knife, of which there are many. Also when considering budget it is important to know if that number encompasses peripherals as well (such as sharpening gear, board etc). I know there is a lot of information to absorb but the end result is more than worth it.
     
  4. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    I'm sure they are great knives, but I'd like to purchase from a reputable brand with comparative reviews and warranties/support.
     
  5. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    For righty/lefty, I'm referring to both. For example, the Shun handles are specifically lefty or righty, as well as the blade. From the research I've done, I was under the impression that almost all J knives are beveled 70/30 with a righty lean. I'm not sure sharpening the handedness away from an edge is something I'm interested in, and I'm definitely not interested in sanding down handles.

    You say many knives will be better for the money, do you have anything specific in mind?

    We both love to cook, but due to us having toddler twins, we seldom, if ever, cook together. I'm going to get one of each for now, and if and when we do the cooking class, I will purchase more if needed.

    As far as budget goes, I'm aware that $500 knives are out there, as well as $10,000 knives. I want a great quality knife that's going to last a long time (possibly even lifetime). I have the money, but don't have the desire to spend that much per knife. Assume no budget, but shopping for value. For example, for chef, paring/petty, utility, steel, etc. I don't have a total budget in mind; I just want to spend my money intelligently. I simply don't need a $500 knife.
     
  6. benuser

    benuser

    Messages:
    1,788
    Likes Received:
    94
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    For a left-handed, I would recommend an adapted chef's knife, with an inversed geometry, left side more convexed, right side flatter. Most makers have them on special order, Masahiro Virgin Carbon left-handed are in stock. Expect a premium of some 30%.
    Most resellers don't advertise this and offer instead a conversion of the edge, which is in fact a neutralizing that does not affect the blade's fundamental geometry. So, a left-handed will still experience a sticking problem, and during the entire blade's lifetime every sharpening will become a reprofiling to combat steering.
    With very thin and light blades like lasers and petties this is less critical.
     
  7. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    The issue is my wife is right handed. Any good symmetrical J knives out there?
     
  8. benuser

    benuser

    Messages:
    1,788
    Likes Received:
    94
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Really symmetric blades don't exist -- they would wedge terribly. Even European blades have some degree of asymmetry, but their edge isn't off-centered as with their Japanese counterparts.
    You may find Japanese knives with a symmetric edge, just as Europeans. But even than their geometry isn't strictly speaking symmetric, whatever some salesmen will tell you.
    As the chef's knife is the one you may use for all your task, you better have both your own, rather than some accommodation that fits no one really well.
     
  9. lennyd

    lennyd

    Messages:
    564
    Likes Received:
    17
    Exp:
    Other
    Have to totally agree with each of you having your own chefs (main, most often used etc) knife. It may complicate things a bit initially, but will make life much easier later on, and if your choices are different allow for comparison.

    Though personally I prefer not to buy a knife (or other products) from a "brand" name seller who relies on their name recognition to sell their products at a price beyond their value (or to be blunt I don't enjoy being duped by buying a brand and receiving an inferior product that was made in China or ? based solely on production costs etc) I know I can get even the cheapest POS sharp, but also have to recommend you explore the many options since you have professional experience, and a budget that will allow you a seriously improved experience and quality product.

    I know it's not easy buying something sight unseen and not handling it etc, but if you require to hold the knife in your hand, and have a local brick and mortar store near by your eliminating a while lot of great choices.

    I guess if you are blessed with being close to one of the few specialty knife retailers that doesn't apply, but the rest of us have had to take a chance and wait till it arrives to check it out.

    That was one of the biggest things for me when I first got into Japanese knives, and the thread linked in my signature will allow you to read about just how hard or was for me to make a decision and place the order lol.

    Being you are getting so many very different suggestions I think it may be helpful to share both your comforts from your time in the business and also your thoughts on what you would like in your first Japanese knife, and figure same for your wife so you can get suggestions better tuned for your needs.

    Also consider that once you adapt to the added performance but also very different attributes of your new knife you may find you end up preferring a more Japanese style than anything western (like I did).

    If budget allowed I would would have very few western handled knives, and mostly light weight Wa ones.

    That's definitely not something I thought possible a few years back. Things do change.

    Two last things are to utilize the old posts on the topic of first or new knife through the search function, and expect to learn how to sharpen as most of the professional sharpeners (maybe most) will do me harm than good and unless your lucky or utilize one of the small ones that started as a japanense knife enthusiast and actually has the proper knowledge skills, tools and willingness to do lots of work cheap your not likely to get good results.
     
  10. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    Thanks for the advice guys.

    I ended up pulling the trigger today. We had a local store that had a much larger J knife selection than BB&B, and I was able to test out several other knives. My wife and I immediately fell in love with the Yaxell Gou series. I ended up getting the chef knife for myself and the santoku for her because she is comfortable with them already and enjoys their size over the chef. I added in a 5-inch utility to boot.

    Based on your suggestion, I'm going to learn to sharpen myself. I hope this doesn't come across as lazy, but can you point me to any specific resources on the subject? I have 14-month-old twin boys and I operate a web & graphic design business in addition to my full-time job, so time is pretty limited for me to go rooting around. Especially with the varying levels of knowledge on the subject.

    Also, any recommendations for good steel and sharpeners?

    Thanks again for the help!
     
  11. chrismit

    chrismit

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    At home cook
    Looks like the knife you purchased is made of sg2 and fairly hard. It probably should hold an edge for a good amount of time with home use. I would get a ceramic hone if you are looking to "steel" the knife, best bet is probably the idahone from chef knives to go. The Mac black is a good choice as well. It is important you use good technique with your honing as that is a pretty hard knife and you dontnwantnto chip it. Start by reading this http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=551. Light pressure is your friend. As far as sharpening goes based on your comments and limited budget constraints I would recommend the edge pro system. Short learning curve compared to free hand, fairly easy to get excellent results. It will get your knives as sharp as you could need. Check cktg for options. If you do decide to learn freehand start with the tutorials on the cktg website and these videos from japanese knife imports http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/media-and-news-center/. Jon's series is excellent, this is what I primarily used when starting freehand.
     
  12. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    Thanks, Chrismit!

    I actually was looking at the MAC Black the other day. Would you recommend the Idahone over it? I wasn't able to find the HandAmerican Borosilicate rod anywhere, including CKtG where their website said they stock.
     
  13. jameelmoses

    jameelmoses

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Chef
    I will likely go with the edge pro system due to it's apparent dummy-proof fixed angle ability. Which particular system would you recommend?

    Just in case, you definitely wouldn't recommend using the Yaxell sharpener "specifically made" for the series?
     
  14. chrismit

    chrismit

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    At home cook
    The idahone is just as good as the Mac and cheaper I think. Not sure what sizes they come in but get one at least 10 in long in case u get bigger knives in the future. I don't think the handamerican is being sold anymore but i could be wrong.
     
  15. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

    Messages:
    4,333
    Likes Received:
    81
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    You can get the Idahone in a 12 inch length.
     
  16. benuser

    benuser

    Messages:
    1,788
    Likes Received:
    94
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Not so sure a ceramic rod will work that well with a hard steel like SG2.
     
  17. lennyd

    lennyd

    Messages:
    564
    Likes Received:
    17
    Exp:
    Other
    That looks interesting, and I do like the stone rollers idea, but the 400 grit sounds very coarse (I use 1000 as a start stone when sharpening and end as high as 6k depending on the knife).
     
  18. lennyd

    lennyd

    Messages:
    564
    Likes Received:
    17
    Exp:
    Other
    One point to remember on sharpening free hand is that it is much more intimidating than it is difficult.

    Honestly it's really not that hard at all once you get down the basics, and I have to believe the learning process can't be all that much longer than figuring out a jig system.

    I would love for my knives to stay sharp forever, but even if that was possible I would miss the connection and feeling of accomplishment that comes from making your knives scary sharp with your own hands.

    One thing to keep in mind no matter which way you go with sharpening the steel In most knives like yours is going to be very different than the popular Western brands and will be very different to sharpen.

    Though i find the harder better steels more enjoyable to work with over the softer steels for many reasons there are many who get frustrated because they feel it's harder to remove material etc. But the improved results and performance are the end result.
     
  19. benuser

    benuser

    Messages:
    1,788
    Likes Received:
    94
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Sharpening is more than putting an edge on a piece of steel. You have to restore a previous configuration that will get moved a little towards the spine. So, first thing to do is thinning behind the edge, and lift the spine little by little until you reach the very edge and raise a burr. To be repeated on the other side.
    As far as I know, this continuously changing the angle isn't that simple with a jig system. That's probably why its users tend to neglect the thinning, ending up with great edges -- and poor cutters.
     
  20. lennyd

    lennyd

    Messages:
    564
    Likes Received:
    17
    Exp:
    Other
    Well said.

    I have been slowly bringing an older well abused Tojiro sujihiki back to life, and after grinding away on the most coarse whet stone i have to remove the countless chips and chunks in the edge I decided that I would move well below the 1000 and even use my old Norton oil stone for thinning.

    It's just a lot of steel to remove, and lots of work etc si I totally can understand why some would not look forward to doing a lot of thinning.

    But it has to be done for good results.